Honors Literature 7
October 19, 2018
Commonalities of Antigone and The Inferno
Antigone and The Inferno are famous literature works which are recognized today as two very different books. Antigone, written by Sophocles, is a greek classic tragedy concerning the tension between justice versus law and order. On the other hand The Inferno, written by Dante Alighieri, is a Italian medieval epic illustrating a religious quest through Hell. Clearly one could see the formal differences in the various pieces through their historical roots. However, despite the formal nuances of the literature works, Antigone and The Inferno, there are few common values that play an important role in the making of the work. In certain pieces of the books we see specific ideas weaved throughout the text. A couple of these precedents would be divine justice, fate, and determination of the characters.
Antigone and The Inferno have their historical amenities separating them, but during both periods the works were written in there was a lot of religious activity which influenced the authors writing. A recurrent factor in both of the famous works would be divine justice, the judgment of god driven from the deeds of a specific person, since much of the ages the literature works were written in are strongly reasoned that god possesses every form of justice. Hell itself is a symbol of god’s judgment for those who are inferior to him. The opposing judgment would be heaven since it symbolizes god deeming of the worthy souls whose purpose in life was righteous. In Antigone we
see relatively the same actions being portrayed through the characters judgment from god, but it is depicted unfairly. For example, Antigone is punished for her father’s mistakes, yet since she still abided by the laws of heaven she was given what she wanted, to be taken to the underworld. “For me no marriage song has yet been sung; but Acheron instead is it, whom I must wed”(page 30). This statement illustrates how Creon is right that the gods are on his side so Antigone should not have went against him, however since she sided with the god of the underworld, Hades, Antigone willingly gave herself up to him by suicide. In The Inferno, god’s judgment and his justice is portrayed to be perfect which is why as Dante’s journey through hell’s different circles progresses he better understands that god matched each punishment thoroughly with the sin. “Justice moved my high maker, in power divine, wisdom supreme, love primal” (Canto III line 4-5). This writing on the entrance of hell proves that god’s justice is perfect and the sinners dwelling in hell deserve the punishments they are facing. Divine justice in both the literature works mean the same thing, but are portrayed differently because of religion. Antigone sees the gods as jealous while Dante sees them as perfect but they entwine to later have the same root.
Another commonality included in both Antigone and The Inferno is fate. Similar to divine justice, fate is dependent on the actions of a person in life. In The Inferno fate is entangled with the punishment given to the sinners based on the scale of the worst sin. The fate of each person residing in the inferno is justified by the nature of their mortal sins and is a part of god’s divine justice. An example would be Paolo and Francesca who are trapped in the second circle of hell. Paolo and Francesca are a pair of lovers condemned to Hell for their disloyal love affair. It’s important to remember those in the second level of hell are condemned for lust, hence Paolo and Francesca. “I
learned they suffer here who sinned in carnal things — their reason mastered by desire, suborned” (Canto V line 35-36). The two lovers sin was for allowing their erotic desires to impact their ability to be reasonable leaving their fate to tormenting winds. Fate in the case of Antigone begins when Antigone and Ismene have a discussion about Polyneices burial. They further go on talking about the consequences of this act, which has been declared illegal by Creon, as well as the reasons to why it should be done. “But I was born too feeble to contend against the state (…) But I will go and heep a burial mound over my most dear brother” (page 4). This discussion lays out Antigone’s fate as she decides to bury her brother, undeterred by fear, and face the consequences. In other words, she fully understands her fate and accepts it. Antigone believes following her fate set by the gods is more important than following a law set by the king.
Many works have characters who show extensive determination reach their goal. Similarly, in both Antigone and The Inferno, we see the same determination in the characters present even though the books share no common goal. In Antigone the two characters who show the most determination are Creon and Antigone. Creon shows his determination in proving to Antigone that he was right that she should not have went against state authority and that the gods support him on this matter. Antigone is determined to bury her brother no matter the consequences she may face. “And you made free to overstep my law? Because it was not Zeus who ordered it, nor Justice, dweller with the Nether Gods”(page 17). Here Creon is surprised that Antigone would be so arrogant to go against his decree and Antigone’s response still is undeterred and refuses to listen to Creon since it wasn’t issued by the gods. Their rivalry later grows and even though Antigone is sentenced to death she is determined that she’s right and commits suicide giving herself to Hades.
Similarly, Creon doesn’t let go of his point until he loses everyone he loves. In The Inferno Dante is determined to reach heaven even though it means going through hell’s treachery to reach is love, Beatrice. “(…) I saw appear some of the beautiful things that Heaven bears, where we came forth, and once more saw the stars” (Canto XXXIV line 130-140). In the end because of Dante’s determination he reaches the stars again and has journeyed closer to the one he loves.
Antigone and The Inferno are two very distinct volumes made for two different purposes.
The equivalence of of both texts comes down to divine justice, fate, and determination of characters. Divine justice being god examination of our actions and their results, Fate being the consequence of our actions, and the characters determination being their ticket to reach their goal. All of these precedents lay outline to what connects Antigone and The Inferno together no matter the formal difference.
Word Count: 1100 words